Fifty CIT catering and retail staff threaten strike over pay

Cork Institute of Technology students may face disruption next week when almost 50 catering and retail staff are due to strike over pay.

The first of many planned one-day stoppages by Siptu members on Wednesday is over what their representatives say has been the refusal of management to discuss claims for a pay rise.

However, the college’s subsidiary company which runs the services at CIT’s main campus in Bishopstown disputes the union’s version of events.

The mostly-female staff work for CIT Student Services Company Ltd, a not-for-profit firm whose board comprises staff of CIT and is chaired by the college president Brendan Murphy.

Siptu official Bill Mulcahy said they have been seeking all year to meet management in pursuit of a pay rise for members, who have been on a pay freeze for the past nine years. He said some of the staff have 20 to 30 years’ service, but wages vary from just above minimum wages at under €10 an hour to around €11 an hour.

“We’re looking for management to meet us to discuss pay rises for these workers. But they have said they are only willing to meet us if we will also discuss other cuts, in areas like Christmas bonus or pay for holidays,” Mr Mulcahy said.

While he said no figure has been set out in terms of what is sought, a statement by CIT Student Services Company said the industrial action is in pursuit of a pay claim of more than 20%.

“During the period January to May 2016, the company made exhaustive efforts to get Siptu to engage in direct discussions relating to pay and conditions for its members. Siptu representatives rejected all such requests for engagement,” it said.

It said Siptu failed to respond to repeated invitations to talks from the Workplace Relations Commission between May and October. “The company confirms that it is willing to enter into negotiations that would consider pay increases for its employees at this time, provided such discussions are free from any preconditions imposed by either side,” it said.

Although end-of-semester exams are not scheduled to begin until Saturday week, the placing of pickets on the campus gates next week might lead to disruption to preparations and other college life, particularly if other union members choose not to pass those pickets.

However, other employees would not have protections associated with an all-out strike if they do choose to support the Siptu strike by refusing to pass the pickets.

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